Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with Irish Soda Bread
One of the great things about being Catholic is getting to celebrate the feasts of those who have gone ahead of us – the saints. There are so many saints to celebrate that every new day could bring with it a reason for a party! Some saints, however, are associated with certain nations or ethnic groups and their feasts get celebrated more widely, even by those who don’t share their faith or ethnicity.
Saint Patrick is one of those whose feast has become identified with the people of a nation. St. Patrick is remembered for bringing Christianity to Ireland. Though born in Wales, his feast is marked with great celebration of Irish identity in the United States, not just by those of Irish origin. In typical immigrant fashion, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with greater enthusiasm by the Irish in America than in Ireland. Music speaks of loves lost, homes left behind, and dreams of returning someday. Foods are not necessarily those that were eaten in the homeland, but rather those eaten by immigrants to a new land, with touches of the old ways for comfort.
With all this in mind, making Irish Soda Bread can be a good way to celebrate the life of a man who was taken to another land as a slave, escaped some years later, and then returned to bring the Good News of Jesus to the people of that land.
Here’s a recipe we’ve enjoyed.
Irish Soda Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour *
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken **
1 large or extra-large egg, lightly beaten
Zest of one orange
2 tbsp caraway seeds
1 cup dried currants
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or lightly grease a baking pan.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
* You can use 4 cups of all-purpose flour in lieu of white whole wheat. Just omit the baking powder
** No buttermilk? No problem. Measure out 1 2/3 cups of milk and add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to bring the mixture to 1 ¾ cups.
Alternate Idea for Shaping:
After kneading the dough, roll it out to about ½ inch thickness. Cut with a shamrock shaped cookie cutter. Bake at 375º for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. The biscuits will be lightly browned.
Cool on baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.